Jon Rahm Becomes New World Number One After Memorial Victory

By: | Mon 20 Jul 2020 | Comments

IT WASN’T pretty but Jon Rahm will not be bothered about that. The Spaniard shot a final round of 75 to win The Memorial Tournament at Muirfield Village by three shots. Of more significance is that the victory saw him replace Rory McIlroy at the top of the world rankings.

Rahm finished the week on nine under par, three clear of American Ryan Palmer (74), with Matt Fitzpatrick (68) third on five under, with fellow Englishman Matt Wallace (72) one back.

Rahm is the second Spaniard, after Seve Ballesteros, to top the rankings and he fought back the tears as he tried to come to terms with the achievement. "I've accomplished a lifelong goal and any time I can join Spanish history with Seve is incredible," said Rahm. "But it's hard to process right now because golf feels secondary. I lost two family members in the [coronavirus] quarantine. There are so many things going through my mind right now that have nothing to do with golf."

This was the sixth PGA Tour event since professional golf resumed in the United States after an enforced three-month shutdown and had been been earmarked as the first to allow fans in to watch.

However, last week the PGA Tour said the remaining nine events of this season would take place behind closed doors as cases of coronavirus continue to soar in the country.

Rahm, 25, started the final round in Ohio with a four-shot lead over Palmer and Tony Finau.

That lead was eight by the eighth hole. But then things got a little bit messy. He bogeyed the 10th and then slammed his driver into the ground in anger after hitting his tee shot on the par-five 11th into water. He would double bogey the hole and see his lead cut to five.

It was four when Palmer birdied the short 12th and three after Rahm bogeyed the 14th.

He also looked to be in trouble on the par-three 16th after his errant tee shot flew into the greenside rough, but he hit a beautifully delicate chip that rolled right into the centre of the cup for a birdie.

"It was an unbelievable shot," said Rahm. "It was the best short-game shot I've ever hit."

However, in addressing the ball before his chip, television pictures showed that he inadvertently moved his ball a fraction. PGA Tour rules officials studied the footage while Rahm played his final two holes.

He only learnt of his potential infringement when being interviewed immediately after his round and before he had signed his scorecard.

"I did not see or feel anything," he said. "If it did move I did not see anything. It's not going to take anything away from that shot. For that to go in, that was exactly what I needed."

He was eventually penalised two shots.

Fitzpatrick's 68 was the lowest round of a day when the average score was closer to 76, and moved him 15 places up the leaderboard.

"It was just a grind," he said after an excellent round which featured one bogey and five birdies and was interrupted by a 50-minute delay as a storm blew across the course. "Pars were a good score," he added.

Wallace had three birdies in his final four holes, including one at the last to card a level-par 72 and take joint fourth with Australian Jason Day.

McIlroy had an early birdie but a triple-bogey eight on the par-five fifth hole derailed his round and he finished with a six-over 78 and four over total.

Tiger Woods said he would take "a lot of positives" away from his first tournament in five months despite finishing with a four-over 76 and six over par total.

The record five-times winner of this event holed birdie putts of 18 and 22 feet on the 16th and 17th holes but he also had five bogeys and a double bogey.


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European Tour

Meanwhile in Europe, Joel Stalter secured a maiden title with a two-stroke victory in the Euram Bank Open in Austria.

The Frenchman overturned a four-stroke deficit on the final day to card a two-under 68 in dreadful weather at Golf Club Adamstal, seeing him end the week on 14 under, two ahead of England's Richard Mansell.

Overnight leader Robin Sciot-Siegrist finished in a share of third alongside Christofer Blomstrand and Alexander Knappe after a final round of 75, with Joost Luiten ending the week four strokes off the pace into for sixth place. For the second week in succession this was effectively a Challenge Tour event with a smattering of European Tour players in the field. Victory for Stalter secures his playing privileges on the European Tour for 2020-21 and the victory meant a huge amount to him.

"I can't really put it into words," Stalter said. "I have been in this situation a few times and was never able to really push through. My girlfriend was on the bag this week. She has done an incredible job, she kept me going. She's definitely part of my success today."

Stalter opened with a birdie and moved top of the leaderboard with another at the tenth, as Sciot-Siegrist followed a bogey at the seventh by triple-bogeying the ninth to lost his overnight advantage.

A bogey at the 14th from Stalter was followed by a birdie at the next, with a run of pars in heavy rain along the closing stretch seeing him set the clubhouse target.

Mansell - making just his second European Tour appearance - birdied the 14th but missed from tap-in range at the next and bogeyed the 16th, with a one-over 71 seeing him end the week on 12 under.

"With four holes to play when you've got a one-footer to tie the lead, or if you could just birdie the last, it's difficult to swallow," Mansell said. "But I'll be back again. I know I'll have more chances."

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